Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized Joe Biden as the president-elect of the United States for the first time on Tuesday, after declining to do so while President Donald Trump contested the election results.
“Our country has officially a president-elect and a vice president-elect,” the Kentucky Republican said. “The Electoral College has spoken. So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”
Biden and McConnell served together in the Senate for years and negotiated several deals when Biden was vice president and McConnell was the GOP leader during Barack Obama’s presidency. They will have to work closely again next year given the narrow margins in the House and Senate and Biden’s professed desire to work with Senate Republicans on confirming his Cabinet and passing legislation. The two men have not said publicly whether they’ve spoken to each other since the November election.
On Tuesday, McConnell said Biden has “devoted himself to public service for many years” and congratulated Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) for becoming the first woman elected vice president.
But McConnell was careful not to begin his comments Tuesday by congratulating Biden after Trump’s defeat in the Electoral College on Monday and in the Supreme Court last week. Trump has continued tweeting angrily about the election, falsely claiming on Tuesday that there are “tremendous problems being found with voting machines.”
“President Trump should take his cue from Leader McConnell that it’s time to end his term with a modicum of grace and dignity,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
McConnell’s recognition of Biden came at the tail end of a long speech praising Trump’s accomplishments and after Senate Chaplain Barry Black recognized Biden and Harris as victors. McConnell called Trump an “outsider who swore he would shake up Washington and lead our country to new accomplishments both at home and abroad” and did “exactly that.”
McConnell had carefully tiptoed around Biden’s electoral win as Trump fought the election in the courts. But the president has been handed a series of losses, punctuated by the Electoral College clinching Biden’s win. That prompted a flood of Republicans to recognize him, including the top Republican in Congress.
“As of this morning, our country has officially a president-elect and a vice president-elect. Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result. But our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20,” McConnell said.